Will this be the last Mother’s Day that my Mom will be here for? Will Sunday be the last Mother’s Day call I make? I don’t know. The truth is, we never know. Do we? But there are times, like now, when the reality of death is more pressing; more present, I guess. My Mom’s health is failing, you see. She can no longer get out of bed by herself. When she tries, she injures herself. She cries a lot these days. She also forgets a lot. She is scared that she will forget her children and/or her grandchildren. She also has this fear that she will be forgotten and these fears bring about even more crying. She is with my Dad and that is good because his health is also failing.
One of my earliest memories is going with my Mom to the welfare office. I believe that my brothers and sisters were in school. I remember these times as being extremely tense. She hated them. She always felt that the young ladies behind the window or sitting at the desks were treating her as if she were stupid or lazy or scamming the government. And maybe some of them were. My dad had been laid off and life demands money, doesn’t it? So, she endured these moments of embarrassment because she had four babies to feed. I can remember times when the only food in the house was dry cereal. I can remember eating some pretty weird things. We had cow tongue because it was a cheap meat. Mom didn’t know you are supposed to skin it. I wasn’t fond of the chewy leathery consistency, but I chewed on it. If you asked Mom what something was and she merely said, “It’s meat,” you knew it was something you were not going to like. Most of the time we ate it anyway. Food is food when you don’t have much. We had a lot of ham hock and beans. It is kind of a comfort food for me now.
I can remember many a Momism. “If your friends all jumped off of a cliff would you jump with them?” “Do you think money grows on trees?” “Walter must have a tape worm – he eats and eats and never gains any weight.” (Yeah, wish that one was still true.) “You’re a cool head, but who wants a drafty toilet?” “You’re no Adonis, so quit expecting an Aphrodite.” “Are you trying to heat up the whole out-doors?”
My mother is not perfect, but I love her very much. She made some pretty glaring mistakes, but I respect her more than I have words. As with all of us, she is a product, in some ways, of her culture; of the way that she was raised. There were things she was not allowed to talk about. She was not very good at dealing with problems. She was more likely to sweep it all under the rug and pretend nothing ever happened. I was punished for telling a horrible truth once. It pains me to write these words, but they need to be said. I love and respect my Mom. She is not perfect, but she did her best to serve her God and her family. And if we will only honor those who haven’t hurt us, our list of honorees will shrivel away to nothingness and we will be left with a bitterness that will burn us up inside.
I guess I’m being reflective a lot lately. But this article is not simply about me walking the shadowy realm of memory. It is more than honoring a terrific, yet flawed, mother. It is about obeying the fifth commandment; the first directed toward our human relationships. It is about honoring our father and mother. And there is no caveat here. There is something fundamental about respecting your parents. There is something in us that wants to love our Moms no matter the circumstances; no matter the pain; no matter the disappointments. You have permission to love your Mother, no matter what she may have done.
But it is more than that. It is about redemption. It is about God working in the midst of our flaws. Sometimes I may be maudlin in my reflection, but I am also filled with joy. It is not about whether this is the last Mother’s Day or not. It is about taking advantage of the time you have. We are not guaranteed a tomorrow. So, do all you can today. We have set aside a day to honor mothers and that seems to me to be a very good idea. But don’t wait until that day rolls around. It may not. Don’t pour out all of your thoughts of love and respect on that day. Take advantage of every moment you can.
My Mom is a lovely lady. She is now living in a nursing home in a dementia wing so that she can be with my Dad. She is struggling with new issues and concerns. She loves her God; her family and her church family. She has done the best she could and has spent too much time worrying that she hasn’t done enough. We tend to do that. It is my prayer that you will love and respect your mother. I hope that you will be able to look beyond the mistakes. God does that for her and for you. Peace, Walter